Review by The Retro Goat
It is easily one of the most addictive 3DS games out there, period.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the fourth game is the Animal Crossing series, and the first on the 3DS. It is also the first one to add on to the play style, but in a manner that serves to increase the amount of things to do in an Animal Crossing game without making the new features feel out of place.
While the Animal Crossing games are not known for their complex story, this game shows subtle signs that, much like in the gameplay itself, time moves on in the story. Mayor Tortimer retired, Tom Nook has moved on to full real estate agent, and his nephews have grown up enough to be able to run the shop by themselves. Little things like these won't be all that noticeable to newcomers, but fans who have been playing since the original games will like appreciate the small yet well done development in the characters. As for the rest of the story, you're basically thrusted into the role of the mayor, with your character as confused about why as you are. You have an assistant named Isabella, a new character who basically just declares you mayor and then helps with any mayoral duties you have. My only complaint about that is how there isn't a whole lot of detail as to what happened to the actual new mayor. An unknown sender messages you and says that they were going to become the new mayor, but "one thing led to another...and now it's all up to you!" which is amusing, but I'd like to know more about how such a huge mix up happened without anyone noticing. The other small complaint I have is that the personalities of the main NPCs seemed to be scaled back some. Again, something newcomers won't be affected by, but older players will notice. One example would be that Blathers completely stops telling any story about whatever fish or bug you bring to his museum, and instead simply thanks you. Overall though, the story is solid, and the progression in the game world is very well done and adds a certain level of nostalgia.
With new features being added, the gameplay manages to retain it's core style surprisingly well. The mayoral duties is less "run the town 24/7" and more a feature for you to customize your town to your liking. For example, I'm a night-owl and I can set my town to run later than the normal 8 am to 11 pm style of the past games. You can also add little things to your town like an extra bridge for easier travel, or cute little things to make your town feel more enjoyable, or you could add larger things like re-instating the Reset Center. The new features are all about customizing the town to your liking, without forcing you to burden yourself with extra tasks. They've also included additional customization abilities, to the point where you can change just about every aspect of your characters appearance and how to however you would like it to look. You can change the color of your house, the way your roof looks, your door and mailbox, you can even go so far as to change what color socks you're wearing. That's attention to detail. They really went above and beyond with how much you control, and I don't find their being any flaw with the new aspects. The returning aspects also work as you'd expect, but I find it easier to make a profit in this game. Your main ways of making money are going fishing or bug hunting, but it seems to be easier to catch rarer creatures worth more money than previous titles. Nothing wrong with that, as you have more things to spend your money on this time around. The gameplay sticks to it's roots while managing to expand on it enough to leave the player able to enjoy the game for longer periods of time. To put it simply, the gameplay for Animal Crossing: New Leaf is perfect.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf mostly uses simplistic controls, with the A button and the control stick being virtually all you need, however control extends past that. With Animal Crossing, the main focus is to basically make enough money for whatever you decide, such has a bigger house, new clothes, or some furniture. The main ways to do this are fishing and catching bugs. While nine times out of ten these work just fine, every now and then I find it being a bit irritating. Bugs have the occasional tendency to flee (and therefore become unobtainable for the time being) before they're on the screen. At times this is the players fault, if they are running, this happens sometimes regardless of the players pace. Needless to say, this can become extremely frustrating after it happens more than once or twice. Aside from that though, the controls do work just fine and there isn't much they could do to make the control better. It's just that one annoying issue that brings the control down.
The graphics of Animal Crossing have always been cutesy and mildly exaggerated, but that does not mean they are bad. They look quite nice and well animated, and the animals are more easily identifiable instead of being confusing to look at. The 3D is also incredibly well done, with the overall game feeling more submersive thanks to it, without it causing eye strain that other 3DS games are prone to causing. It's all very nice, and adds to the overall experience that Animal Crossing is famous for, and the increased submersion only adds to make it more addictive.
The game uses many of it's songs and sounds from previous game, in a more well defined manner, but also adds more songs to collect as well as a few new in-game tunes to go along with the new locations. None of the songs are particularly annoying, but I do wish there was more general variety past "morning song" and "night song" for around the town. But besides that, the songs are still pleasing and adds on to the games peaceful atmosphere.
Replay Value- 10/10
There is an incredible amount to do in each Animal Crossing game, and New Leaf adds on to each returning aspect as well as adding a few new things to do such as deep sea diving and playing mini games for prizes, both of which are fun new inclusions to the franchise. There are literally thousands of things to collect, hundreds of creatures to catch, a whole lot of things to spend your money on, as well as whatever you wish to do with online with friends. There is so many things to do in this game that you'll find yourself playing it constantly both when you first get it and months after. There is an abundance of content for you to come back to, and the replay value of the game is incredible. Don't be surprise if the amount of hours you put into this game to exceed a few hundred.
Buy or Borrow?
If you're a fan of casual yet addictive games like Harvest Moon, then you're going to love this game. If you're a fan of previous titles, this one adds on to all the positive aspects from this and it's a must have for any fan. If you're new to the peaceful virtual life genre then you may want to borrow it from a friend just to see if you can get into the play style of this game, but if you already know you like these types of games then this is a must buy. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is easily one of the most addictive games on the 3DS, and it's at least worth anyone 3DS owners time to check it out. I'd say just go ahead and buy it, you'll be hooked with ease.
Overall, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is the perfect example of a game adding on to it's play style without turning the franchise into something completely unrecognizable. With so many things to do, including other new features such as deep sea diving and mini games for prizes, as well as the previous aspects of the games being expanded upon, as well as the in-game world constantly adapting to the real world and having there be things to do year-round, this is an incredible game that you won't be able to stop playing for ages. It's incredibly well done, and the few flaws it has are very minor in comparison to the sheer amount of fun the game is. It's an incredibly fun game to play, and one almost every 3DS owner could enjoy.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Animal Crossing: New Leaf (US, 06/09/13)
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